Zuist arbitrage culture that is Iceland and Sumerian too

by on December 8, 2015 at 2:49 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Law, Religion | Permalink

Icelanders opposed to the state funding of religion have flocked to register as Zuists, a movement that worships ancient Sumerian gods and – perhaps more importantly – promises its followers a tax rebate.

More than 3,100 people – almost 1% of Iceland’s population – have joined the Zuist movement in the past two weeks in protest at paying part of their taxes to the state church and other religious bodies. Followers of Zuism will be refunded the tax element earmarked for religion.

Icelanders are required to register their religion with the state, with almost three-quarters of the population affiliated to the established Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland. There are more than 40 other registered religious bodies that qualify for “parish fees” paid through the taxation system. The amount set in next year’s budget is the equivalent of about $80 (£53) per taxpayer over a year.

“There is no opt-out. Those who are unaffiliated or belong to unregistered religions effectively just pay higher taxes,” said Sveinn Thorhallsson, a Zuist spokesperson. An opinion poll published in September showed 55% of respondents want an end to the system.

According to the article, some of the participants are starting to show interest in the religion.  Hmm…

1 dearieme December 8, 2015 at 3:01 pm

There is (or was until recently) some sort of religion tax in Germany too, though I think it allows opt-out.

2 Ed December 8, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Quite a few countries in Europe have a church tax.

3 dan1111 December 9, 2015 at 1:44 am

As a Christian, I think this needs to stop.

4 Errorr December 9, 2015 at 2:22 am

I was just talking to my friend who lived in Germany for 3 years (his visa expired) about how different religion is in Europe and how all his friends told him to write down no religion. He wasn’t really very religious and just figured it was for demographic purposes until everyone told him it was for tax.

He also left a staunch libertarian small-government republican and returned a center-left social democrat.

5 IVV December 9, 2015 at 3:40 pm

It works in reverse, too. My German wife arrived in America strongly socialist, but now is very strongly libertarian. Basically, as long as she can see and reap the benefits of the taxes she pays, she’s happy to pay them. Take away those benefits, and she’ll call for a shrinkage of government, too.

6 Hadur December 8, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Sad that the nation that produced Snorri must now import pagan deities from abroad.

7 Thor December 8, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Indeed. My namesake was busy?

Think of it as a “guest-worker” deity.

8 JWatts December 8, 2015 at 3:45 pm

A guest-worker diety who’s obviously willing to work cheaper than the natives.

9 Roy LC December 8, 2015 at 7:58 pm

While clearly the old gods don’t seem to offer the 21st century Icelander much, victory in battle, and the fertility of women and the soul just don’t have the same relevance, though they do have a pretty high fertility rate. The problem is that the Old Gods are all about fighting and running a farm, sure there is some trading and all but no manufacturing, extractive, or refining sector at all, the dwarves do all the work, which works great when you are just looting but not much or the modern Scandinavian. You are just left with the god of fishing and sailing is Njor and only Norwegians have ever heard of him. So as much as one might want to honor the Allfather, the traitor god with his goat chariot who will abandon your sword arm at the critical point leaving his ravens to pick onyour bones, the only thing he offers is reasonably priced alcohol in the afterlife after Odin abandons you. It may be better than Crom but even Coman didn’t have much use for that guy. So you are stuck with Freya and maybe Tyr who nobody knows much about. And Loki I guess, but that seems perverse.

At least the Sumerians have Enki and Tiamat, but everything else useful from Marduk to El-Ptah is unknown, no real craft gods either, though at least you get city protectors. But the afterlife is still cold dark and damp. So I would suggest they keep looking. Also I don’t think ziggurats are the way to go Reykjavik is not really laid out for them.

10 Viking December 8, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Njord is a pretty obscure deity, I can recall some streets named after him. I think most Norwegians know Tor, Odin, Balder, Loki, Tyr (from which Tuesday/Tirsdag is named), Freya, Frey.

Nothing perverse about Loki, he is as good as John Galt.

11 mkt42 December 9, 2015 at 6:33 am

Many of those names are indirectly familiar to English-speakers, because we have in addition to Tyr’s-day:


and then for some reason we switch to Roman gods with Saturn’s-day, and then Sun-day and Moon-day.

Google translate suggests that Norwegians use pretty much the same names for their days of the week, except instead of Saturn’s-day they call it lord’s-day, if I’m interpreting it correctly.

The only language for which I know the days of the week is French; they have Moon-day too but reflecting their Latin roots its lundi. Then a bunch of Roman gods but not matched to their Norse equivalents: Mars, Mercury, Jove/Jupiter, Venus. And then a sabbath day and a day of the lord, which seems rather duplicative: samedi and dimanche.

12 Too Late December 9, 2015 at 4:30 pm


And then a sabbath day and a day of the lord, which seems rather duplicative: samedi and dimanche.

Saturn-day and Sun-day were replaced by Sabbath-day (although through Greek and Altin, and with loss of meaning) and Lord-day under the influence of Christians who disliked the pagan connotations.

13 mkt42 December 10, 2015 at 1:41 am

“Saturn-day and Sun-day were replaced by Sabbath-day (although through Greek and Altin, and with loss of meaning) and Lord-day under the influence of Christians who disliked the pagan connotations.”

Fascinating, thanks!

So by calling those days Saturday and Sunday, are we part of a war on Christianity? 😉

14 Marc December 8, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Thankfully, in the United States, we don’t have a tax for churches…we only have a “loophole”:


15 Thor December 8, 2015 at 4:11 pm

What the hell was THAT? Yikes…

16 Art Deco December 8, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Because, in contradistinction to any other philanthropy, we just have to tax churches. And we have to do it because philanthropic corporations which have an illiquid piece of real estate, a five figure endowment, and a donation stream allowing them to hire four employees are just bodacious cash cows. We have the word of perpetual adolescents employed as comedians on that, so take it to the bank.

17 swedenborg December 8, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Feel free to propose limiting the tax exemption to churches with an endowment of less than $100,000 and no more than four employees.

18 Cooper December 8, 2015 at 11:24 pm

So, screw the Catholics then.

Also, the Red Criss has a massive endowment. Would it be fair to cut them off from the charitable deduction?

Seems like this has to be all or nothing.

19 Tyler December 8, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Ah, the good ole Obama trick. When my opponents point out a small but legitimate threat, I counter with “they’re just women and children! Shame on you for accusing them of doing bad things!”

20 Thiago Ribeiro December 9, 2015 at 12:45 am

I don’t think churches should be called “philantropy” (loving people) any more than PETA should. Churchmen warn us that helping people without loving God is “mere philantropy”. They do charity work and it’s great, but their raison d’être lies elsewhere or they would be simple charity organizations (charity may as well be a big item on their budgets because giving stuff/ providing services to people is expensive–even if they are to be taxed, they should get deductions for the charity work).
I think the most logical and fair thing to do is to forget the philantropy category and treat churches as NGOs. Impose on them the same rules non-profits have to follow to keep their tax-exempted status, and it will weed the most obvious abuses (as well as it does with NGOs, evidently there are lots of “charity” scams).
“Clubs organized for pleasure, recreation, and other nonprofitable purposes, substantially all of the activities of which are for such purposes and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder”, fraternal societies and civic leagues are exempted from taxes, I see little reason to tax churches, provided they comply with the kind of guidelines non-profits comply with.
I would propose a litmus test:
1) Would the way a church uses its money be tolerated if a secular non-profit did it? Churches do propaganda (so does PETA), they conduct cultural activies (so do civic groups), they materially provide their “employees”, etc. What are the evidences that someone is abusing church tax-exempt status to make money for himself? The same, whatever they may be, that people is doing it on the board of some secular non-profit.
Throw in, if you want, an extra provision to protect speech by religious figures/organizations. So, say, Jim Wallis and Pat Robertson can both defend polical positions and candidates even in circumstances a food bank or the Red Cross couldn’t. The Catholic Church’s position on contraception gets taxed as the same rate Planned Parenthood’s gets.

21 Govco December 8, 2015 at 4:23 pm

So these Sumnerians are targeting nominal Gods to boost their monetary inputs, what’s new?

22 mkt42 December 8, 2015 at 8:44 pm

And it beats trying to target real Gods, which are very hard to measure accurately — how do you even know how large the GOD-deflator should be?

23 Barkley Rosser December 8, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Heck, if they have not done so already (probably) they should resurrect their old pagan religion. That would allow them to go on and on about the Elder Edda where we find all those Dwarf names from Tolkien, as well as good old “Gandalf,” although I suppose the neo-pagans have sold out to the government and have already promised to let it take the taxes and run.

24 Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta December 8, 2015 at 5:46 pm

I think I should open a Temple of Mammon,
There are already plenty of worshipers.

I’ll make a fortune.

25 So Much For Subtlety December 8, 2015 at 6:15 pm

If they talk the talk, so to speak, they should be required to walk the walk. The government should ask for video of an actual animal sacrifice.

26 msgkings December 8, 2015 at 6:41 pm

Well, kill a cow and then you got lunch.

27 JWatts December 9, 2015 at 9:05 am

Killing (and butchering a cow is a lot of work). A Hog seems more reasonable. Or for a smaller crowd, perhaps a goat. They both make good barbecue.

28 Thiago Ribeiro December 9, 2015 at 1:08 am

The gods, may they feast on our enemies’ carcases and drink their children’s blood, are peaceful and told their worshippers to stop with the animal sacrifices — the same way God told the Mormons to stop with the poligamy thing ( https://www.mormon.org/faq/practice-of-polygamy ) and the not ordaing Blacks thing and the Jewish Messiah told the Jews to stop with the divorce thing, the silly food nitpicking and that “an eye for an eye” story — and there was much rejoicing among their people.

29 Thiago Ribeiro December 8, 2015 at 11:26 pm

“According to the article, some of the participants are starting to show interest in the religion.”
“We had a service, with a reading of ancient Sumerian poetry.”
You have never experienced ancient Sumerian poetry until you have read it in the original Sumerian.

30 punditbear December 9, 2015 at 9:35 am

It would seem even the smallest religions exhibit pathologies.

31 Nathan W December 11, 2015 at 10:20 am

Why not just become Pastafarian and worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose existence cannot be disproven?

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